Moosomin selected for a Cannabis outlet
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Town council to decide February 14: Moosomin selected for a Cannabis outlet

January 15, 2018 8:28 am
Kevin Weedmark


Moosomin is among the 40 communities eligible for Cannabis outlets in Saskatchewan, the provincial government announced Monday.

Moosomin town council will decide whether to allow a Cannabis outlet at a meeting on Feburary 14.

Moosomin, Esterhazy, Yorkton, Melville, Fort Qu’Appelle, Estevan and Weyburn are the communities in southeast Saskatchewan that are eligible to have Cannabis outlets, the province announced on Monday, January 8.

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) will issue approximately 60 cannabis retail permits to private operators in as many as 40 Saskatchewan communities. The communities will only be eligible for a Cannabis outlet if town or city council agrees it would be good for the community.

“While your community is eligible for a retail outlet, our government appreciates that individual communities may have their own views on cannabis legalization,” Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority President Cam Swan wrote in a letter to the town.

“Therefore, we are giving eligible municipalities the choice to opt out of the initial allocation of retail permits, if they so choose.

“While we expect many communities will welcome these new types of businesses, some may not.

“Please note that communities who choose to opt out of the initial allocation of retail permits will be allowed to advise SLGA if that decision changes in the future. Whatever the decision, government will respect the views of the affected communities.”

Town council has until Feb. 28 to pass a motion opposing a cannabis outlet. If it does not pass any motion, a cannabis outlet will be allowed in Moosomin.

Council met to discuss the issue Thursday, and decided to make a decision on the issue at the February 14 meeting, after municipalities have discussed the issue at SUMA, and after council members have heard from local residents.


Mayor has lots of questions
Mayor Larry Tomlinson says there will be a lot of questions when the proposal comes to Moosomin town council for approval.

“It’s going to happen all over, but there are going to be some questions for sure,” the mayor says.

“We are going to wait until we go to SUMA (The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association convention) and see what comes out of that,” they mayor said. “There are a few sessions on Cannabis, and we will have a chance to talk to some of the other communities. There are four of us going to SUMA so we’re hoping to get some good information there.

“We’re hoping to hear from people, what they think, and we’ve been watching your poll as well (you can have your say in the poll at www.world-spectator.com), and it looks like most are in favor it.

“We’ll look at all that, and we’ll make a decision on the 14th. At this point in time I think council is kind of split on it so we’ll see where it goes.”

‘Aggressive timelines’
“The federal government has established very aggressive timelines for the legalization of cannabis,” Minister Responsible for SLGA Gene Makowsky said.

“Our government is being diligent to ensure the sale and regulation of cannabis in Saskatchewan strikes a balance between public safety and access for consumers. It’s also important to our government that the 40 municipalities and First Nations selected for retail locations have the opportunity to decide whether they want cannabis retail stores in their community.”

The initial allocation of retail store permits will be in municipalities and First Nations with populations of at least 2,500, with larger communities being allocated additional permits. Eligible First Nations and municipalities will have the option to opt out of having a retail cannabis store in their community if they choose. The final number of retail permits will depend on the number of community leaders that decide to opt out.

Both wholesaling and retailing of cannabis will be conducted by the private sector and regulated by SLGA. Cannabis retailers will be required to establish a standalone storefront operation, with the option to also operate an online store. Stores will be limited to selling cannabis, cannabis accessories and ancillary items. Stores must also have the ability to track and report cannabis inventory to help ensure consumers only have access to safe, legal product from regulated wholesalers.

An independent third party will be engaged to assist SLGA with selecting retail operators using a two-phase process. The first phase will be initial screening for financial capacity and the ability for proponents to track and report inventory. Phase two will be a random selection (lottery) of the qualified applicants. Successful proponents will be required to meet ‘good character’ criteria as part of the permitting process.

Specific details regarding application criteria, permit licensing fees, application timelines and other associated details will be finalized over the coming weeks. A decision on the minimum age for cannabis consumption will be made later this spring.

Communities that are eligible for a cannabis outlet are: Assiniboia, Battleford, Biggar, Canora, Esterhazy, Estevan (2), Fort Qu’Appelle, Humboldt, Kindersley, La Loche, La Ronge, Lac La Ronge First Nation, Lloydminster (2), Maple Creek, Martensville, Meadow Lake, Melfort, Melville, Moose Jaw (2), Moosomin, Nipawin, North Battleford (2), Onion Lake First Nation, Outlook, Peter Ballantyne First Nation, Pilot Butte, Prince Albert (2), Regina (6), RM of Corman Park, RM of Edenwold, Rosetown, Saskatoon (7), Shellbrook, Swift Current (2), Tisdale, Unity, Warman (2), Weyburn (2), White City, and Yorkton (2).

Gluing leaves on the trees
Sgt Scott Fefchak of the Moosomin RCMP says legalization is coming regardless of what individual towns do.

“To not allow a dispensary in a town would be like trying to glue the leaves on the trees to make winter not come,” he said. “It’s coming. It is inevitable anyway. I think they would get it from somewhere else if it wasn’t available here. People that want to smoke marijuana are going to smoke marijuana The law is in the works right now and ultimately our biggest concern is: are people going to be driving under the influence of marijuana?”

Testing for marijuana at the roadside is not the same as a breathalyzer for alcohol.

“We have the drug recognition experts but there are not enough of us trained yet. And so I don’t think we are well enough prepared at this time just because the drug recognition course takes a long time to roll out and get everyone trained. It’s a course you have to take and you have to pass, and you have to be recognized in court as a drug expert, so it’s sort of unwieldy and it’s somewhat cumbersome to implement from a law enforcement perspective.

“If you want to compare it to alcohol, we can get a breath sample from someone and we know exactly right now what their blood alcohol level is from their breath. That is a scientifically approved method the courts have approved. And a group of individuals in the science community came up with the .08 and they determined that anyone who is at .08 or higher, that would fall into the definition of impaired and that could be accepted into the courts. And that was accepted by the courts, and that is basically the accepted standard now, so that if you are over .08 you’re considered too impaired to operate a motor vehicle.

“There are a couple of challenges with marijuana. We don’t have the standard of THC in the blood that would allow you to determine that a person is impaired, and more importantly we don’t have a standard set out now on how we would collect blood or collect saliva. There are a lot of things that are still very much up in the air.”

Current practice if someone is found to be driving and apparently under the influence of marijuana is to seek out a drug recognition expert within the RCMP.

“We would see if there was a drug recognition expert in the area first, or if the member was a drug recognition expert they would go through the test. From a public safety standpoint we would probably make sure that guy was not driving anymore depending on how severe it is and how much you can justify it. We’ve got to also balance public safety with not infringing on people’s rights too.

“People are generally responsible, though. The taxi people have had an increase in calls for service after 9 pm and most of the people are intoxicated and they’re not driving because they don’t want to get impaireds so that shows people are making good decisions right now.

“The impaired by marijuana is probably going to be more difficult to deal with right now until we get those standards set the way it has been with alcohol.”

There will be more training to help RCMP officers deal with a potential increase in people driving under the influence of drugs.

“The drug recognition expert course is three weeks per cop to take. We also have to make sure everyone is up to date on their rifle and their pistol, plus taser, plus their block training which is basic arrest stuff hand cuffs, run through scenario training, plus some are doing interviewing courses.”

Regardless, Fefchak says the RCMP will ensure public safety if a driver is stopped who appeared to be under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.

“If there was an obvious sign of impairment we wouldn’t let the guy continue driving, because at the end of the day public safety is the issue.

“We’re not going to let someone go that we think is a public danger just because we’re not sure what to do yet. We are not going to let that happen here, and sometimes common sense has to prevail and we will make sure we are not letting people drive drunk or under the influence of drugs. Whether or not there will be a conviction in court, that is another kettle of fish all together.”


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